Dr. Imran Majid
Ø How can one tame frizzy, dry and damaged hair?
Frizzy and dry hair is basically unhealthy hair. And the best way to tame such hair is by improving its health. Giving proper nutrition to the hair, avoiding harsh physical and chemical agents and proper conditioning are the three main methods that can be employed.
Ø What usually causes hair damage in youth, and how can it be prevented or treated?
Hair damage in youth is caused by multiple factors and the treatment or prevention will depend upon the basic cause of damage.
Hair loss in youth can be divided into five main types depending upon the underlying reason or etiology. The first and foremost is the hormonal hair loss which, undoubtedly, is the most common cause. Hormonal changes guide humans through different stages of life which typically start with a pre-pubertal or childhood, the pubertal stage and then the post-pubertal period. This pubertal stage is brought on by the production of certain new hormones like estrogens, progesterone and androgens. These hormones have a profound effect on the body resulting in a change in the body height and shape, beard hair growth in males, initiation of menstrual cycles in females and many other physical and psychological effects. Androgen is responsible for two main conditions that occur in skin and hair around the onset of puberty. The first is ‘acne’ or ‘pimples’ and the second is ‘hair-loss’ or ‘androgenic alopecia’. We are all familiar with the ‘male pattern baldness’ that develops in males after puberty but we must know that this alopecia does occur in females as well. It is only that the pattern of hair loss is different in females as compared to males in this age group. There is a specific name for this type of hair loss - female pattern androgenic alopecia. While in males we see a frontal recession and clearing of the temples, females develop a diffuse hair loss which is more prominent on the front of the scalp than other areas.
BOX: Common types of hair loss in females
- Hormonal hair loss or androgenic alopecia
- Nutritional hair loss
- Hair loss induced by physical/chemical damage
- Hair loss secondary to diseases, surgeries etc
- Post-partum hair loss
Ø Dandruff is a very common issue. What causes it?
Dandruff is caused by hyper-proliferation of cells on the surface of the scalp. These dead cells become evident as scales or ‘dandruff’.
The basic causative agent for this hyper-proliferation is a fungus known as ‘Pityrosporumovale’. This fungus grows on scalp in all of us but in some it causes the hyper-proliferation of cells and in some no such phenomenon is seen.
Ø Can home remedies treat dandruff or medication needs to be taken?
Yes, some home remedies are helpful in tackling dandruff. Use of lemon juice or even yogurt is thought to help people with dandruff. Regular oiling also helps. Use of antiseptic soaps especially those containing cetrimide also prove helpful. However, not all people respond to these remedies. Such people need proper medications.
Ø Is hair loss normal? If yes how much and when to start worrying?
We lose about a hundred hair shafts everyday from our scalp. But if we notice progressive thinning of hair we should consult a specialist. Similarly, if we notice hair on our pillows or too much of it on our combs or in the bathroom we should start worrying about it.
Ø Do hair dyes and styling products cause hair loss and other hair problems?
Hair is a delicate structure and the hair shaft is covered by a protective covering known as ‘Cuticle’. This cuticle is just like a tree bark which protects the trunk or branch inside it. When we use any harsh chemical agents, the cuticle can get damaged and consequently the hair shaft will be damaged leading eventually to unhealthy looking hair and hair loss. These harsh chemicals can be in the form of hair dyes/colours, hair straighteners etc. Procedures like hair straightening and hair bonding are becoming very popular in today’s world and the frenzy has caught up here in our valley as well. It is important to write about these procedures here as none of them is absolutely safe for the health of our hair. This is especially true in those cases where the hair is already under some stress form hormones or nutritional imbalances. So, we should all be wary of blindly following the advertisements which claim that these procedures are ‘absolutely safe’. There are also misleading advertisements that promise a lustrous and shiny hair with the use of certain shampoos and even hair colors. It needs to be understood that these advertisements are marketing gimmicks and have no basis behind them. It is just like believing that we will turn ‘fairer’ by using a particular ‘soap brand’.
Use good brands. Don’t use harsh procedures. Conditioning is really important
Ø Premature hair greying is a growing problem, why so?
According to surveys conducted in different cities in India, about two to three percent of population suffers from some severity of greying hair at 25 years of age. And if you are surprised about the case of a four-year-old child with grey hair, you should know that we do see even children at three years of age with the problem of premature greying.
Greying of scalp hair which used to start at about the age of 35 or 40, usually starts at 25 now. And any greying of hair occurring after 25 in an Asian adult can’t be labelled as ‘premature greying’ in today’s times. Yes, that is true! Greying of hair at a younger age is a world-wide phenomenon and some countries are more affected with this problem than others.
Nobody knows for certain the reasons behind this phenomenon but many factors are incriminated. The first and foremost is the change in our diet and dietary habits. The diet we used to consume about 30-years or even 20-years back has changed drastically now. While the diet then used to be ‘raw’ and ‘natural’, the diet we consume today is much more ‘refined’ and full of artificial ingredients. This diet lacks certain important micronutrients that we used to get in plenty in earlier days. Do we know that freezing of dietary substances leads to loss of some essential vitamins? Similarly, it is not a common knowledge that canned food goes on to lose a lot of important vitamins and micronutrients on storing. So, nutritionally speaking, canned food is not the same as natural food.
Other factors that have been incriminated include ‘oxidant stress’, ‘environmental pollution’, ‘smoking’ and ‘chemical damage’ to hair by means of harsh shampoos and hair grooming agents.
Diseases like thyroid disorders, vitiligo, premature ageing disorders and some other conditions are also associated with the phenomenon of premature greying.
Ø Is there any connection between food habits and hair-problems? Also describe a healthy regimen.
Yes, there is certainly a connection—we need a ‘balanced diet’ with good quantities of iron and calcium to keep our hair healthy. And by a balanced diet we mean a diet that contains all of the essential micro- as well as macronutrients in ideal quantities. Females in the reproductive age group are very conscious of their physique and this forces them to go for rigorous dietary schedules where they simply cut down their intake of cereals and other dietary items. What we need to make them understand is that cereals are the only source of many of our essential vitamins and minerals and it is better to stick to a healthy diet with adequate quantity of cereals, proteins, fruits and vegetables and cut down on the fat/ oils and even on junk food to maintain a healthy body and hair.